When Jesus taught on prayer is was instructive and direct:
He warns his followers about the very real dangers of public prayer or “standing up in the synagogues” (Matthew 6:5), as he puts it. He instructs us to “ go to your private room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in that secret place.” (Matthew 6:6)
“In your prayers, do not babble on as the pagans do, thinking that by using many words they will make themselves be heard. Do not be like them!” (Matthew 6:7)
It would seem that most organised religions today have ignored these teachings as most prefer public services, public prayers and lots of words. Especially the Pentecostals which is my faith base. I wonder if in our busy driven lives we are actually repelled by silence and solitude?
The only verbal prayer that Jesus ever taught was the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer). That was because he was interrupted and asked by the disciples to teach them how to pray.
Public prayer of itself is not a bad thing, it seems though that the emphasis from Jesus is on solitude, privacy and relationship with the father. Our personal relationship with Jesus is more important than our social or public one. Social prayer, or prayer that makes announcements to God, Jesus says is unnecessary because “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:9). In fact Jesus warns against public prayer in Luke 18:9-14
“Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
13 “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”
14 Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”
Social prayer runs the risk of becoming an elevating of one’s social image and self-image. Private prayer needs no public approval, just transparency and communication with God.
Here are two prayers that you can say today in quietness and privacy.
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Fr. Richard Rohr’s prayer comes from Psalm 46:10 of the Hebrew Scriptures: “Be still and know that I am God.” Use this prayer to try and draw yourself and others into a contemplative frame of mind.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
1) Find a quiet place, gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Prepare to pray the Psalm in 5 consecutively diminishing sentences.
2) Either aloud or quietly to yourself, say the words, “Be still and know that I am God.”
3) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be still and know that I am.”
4) After a couple deep breaths, pray “Be still and know.”
5) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be still.”
6) After a couple deep breaths, pray, “Be.”
7) When ready, pray, “Amen.”
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